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Sold Out: No More Vendor Spots for 2019

The 2019 Austin Reggae Festival includes three days of outstanding music, a generous selection of international food options, plus an exciting array of arts & crafts vendors. Unfortunately, vendor spots for this year’s event are now completely sold out. If you are interested in applying for one of these arts & craft vendor spots for the April 2020 event, then please email pwccostigan at yahoo dot com.

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ATX Sound System: April 12, 2019

General Smiley and the Roots of Dancehall

2019 Austin Reggae Festival performer General Smiley (born Errol Bennett) began toasting and deejaying with his classmate Ranking Michigan (who later became Papa Michigan) while the two were still in school. When they recorded their first hit, “Rub A Dub Style,” in 1978 they would find themselves at a pivotal time in the history of Jamaican music: The rise of the “deejay” and the birth of Dancehall.

It’s difficult to summarize in only a couple of paragraphs the phenomenon of the Jamaican deejay (or, what is commonly referred to as an “MC” most everywhere else). As far back as the 1950s these proto- hype men were introducing, and talking over, records at sound system dances in Jamaica (their chatter partly inspired by jive-talking American radio DJs they’d hear on AM signals picked up late at night from Miami–but that’s a story for another post). That was the format: The “selector” played the records, the “deejay” held the mic and vibed-up the crowd.

In the 1950s and 60s, deejays such as Count Machuki, King Stitt and Sir Lord Comic were connected with specific sound systems. For example, Count Machuki was Coxsone Dodd’s deejay on his Downbeat Sound System before defecting to Prince Buster’s Voice of The People sound system (Coxsone would replace Machuki with his protege, King Stitt). The deejays were each known for their unique style and catch-phrases, and oftentimes even developed their own following.

Historically, these deejays were only ever heard at the dances, in a live setting. That is, until the late-1960s when someone had the idea to bring them into the studio and try to capture that same live energy on vinyl. Spoken-word vocals had already begun to appear on a few records (Prince Buster’s famous tale of “Judge Dread” comes to mind) but now producers were having deejays come in to record the same kind of intros and toasts that they were dropping at the dance (“Sit tight and listen keenly as I play for you a brand new musical biscuit!”) in their own unique voices.

Though King Stitt and Sir Lord Comic were both put on records prior, it was King Tubby’s deejay, U-Roy, who would have the first breakout hit as a deejay. Indeed, it was Tubby who really changed the game. Previously, deejays had to work their toasting in and around the vocals on a track. Tubby, however, went and cut special dub versions of a few big hits, mixing out some of the vocal in order to give U-Roy more room to move around the song (vocally speaking). The crowds went crazy.

Duke Reid, owner of Treasure Isle Records, quickly ushered U-Roy into the studio and in 1970, “Wake The Town” (with its’ now-legendary toast, “Wake the town and tell the people!”) went straight to number one in the charts, as did U-Roy’s two follow-ups that year, “Rule The Nation” and “Wear You to the Ball.” What set U-Roy apart was that he didn’t just throw in a few toasts or talk over the track, he respected the vocal and worked around it in a more musical way, making the track something new–and this would influence a generation of deejays for the decade that followed. Hit records soon followed for the likes of Big Youth, Scotty, I-Roy, U-Brown, Dillinger and others.

By the late 1970s, the popular musical style on the island was clearly evolving–yet again. Roots music, with its’ heavy riddims and conscious (often political and/or Rastafarian) lyrics, dominated for much of the decade and was now exploding around the world in the wake of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ success (it’s also worth noting that, lyrically, U-Roy and many of his early deejay peers had likewise embraced the “conscious” approach and heavy roots riddims). However, back on the streets of Jamaica, the mood was changing. People had grown weary of dwelling on just how oppressed and poor they were–when they went to the dance on Friday night, they wanted to have fun. The sound system operators and their younger-generation deejays had already figured this out, and they were duly indulging their audiences with familiar, feel-good tunes and a fresh approach to deejaying that was more inventive, more bawdy and, most of all, more fun.

It was this change in tone, both musically and lyrically, that would signal the transition from 70s roots to 80s dancehall. Established deejays like Dennis Alcapone and The Lone Ranger were two of the more unique and quirky voices on the scene leading up to this point (the next time you hear an “oink!” or “bim!” in a tune, you can thank them) and now the likes of Ranking Joe, Eek-a-Mouse, Prince Jazzbo, Toyan and dozens more were arriving in their wake.

Also influential during this period, particularly by virtue of being a duo, was Michigan & Smiley. Their quick tandem verses and playful call-and-response was not only exciting and engaging but a feature lacking from the solo deejay acts. In fact, it’s easy to make the case for their influence extending well beyond Jamaica, to later developments in hip-hop and rap (think Run-DMC, The Beastie Boys, etc), or a track like the English Beat’s “Pato & Roger A Go Talk,” which we wrote about last week and which was almost certainly inspired by Michigan & Smiley’s dual-pronged banter. Even Dancehall’s eventual icon and biggest star, Yellowman, would later make tandem albums with fellow deejays Charlie Chaplin and Josey Wales.

For Michigan & Smiley’s first hit, “Rub a Dub Style” in 1978, Coxsone Dodd paired them up with the instrumental version of “I’m Just a Guy” by Alton Ellis, originally recorded with the Studio One house band the Soul Vendors in 1967. This was another feature of the pivot away from the roots sound: Deejays were recording over lots of old, familiar riddims and instrumentals from the late-60s rocksteady period (arguably the last “feel-good” era in Jamaica). Case in point, a few months later, Coxsone would pair them up with yet another vintage Soul Vendors classic (“Real Rock”) for what would become their signature hit, “Nice Up The Dance.”

The duo would go on to have at least two more defining hits in the early days of Dancehall, with “One Love Jamdown” and “Diseases” (the latter recorded with Henry “Junjo” Lawes, one of Dancehall’s most successful producers), firmly cementing their place in Jamaican Dancehall history. No doubt, fans will be able to look forward to hearing many of these tunes during General Smiley’s set at Austin Reggae Festival 2019 on Saturday, April 20.

In the meantime, you can hear a bunch of the tracks discussed here on the Austin Reggae Fest playlist.

 

Click here to hear all the dub sounds we have been listening to the last few days.

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Reggae News You Can Use For April 12, 2019

Your daily dose of international reggae news for Friday, April 12!

Bob Marley film will NOT feature Brad Pitt in starring role
Wisconsin’s first Rastafarian church opens
Ziggy Marley talks about his Mom’s musical legacy

Mark your calendar for April 19-21, which are the dates for the 2019 Austin Reggae Festival.

Advance tickets for the 2019 event are now on sale. Buy your VIP Pass, Three-Day-Wristband or single day ticket before the gates open on April 19 to save!

The 2018 Austin Reggae Festival raised $129,543.14 to help feed hungry Central Texas families. Let’s do even better in April 2019!

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Reggae News You Can Use For April 10, 2019

Your daily dose of international reggae news for Wednesday, April 10!

Claye releases solo track titled Murda
Cocoa Tea and Koffee combine for the right mix
Musicsnake lists its 10 best US reggae albums

Mark your calendar for April 19-21, which are the dates for the 2019 Austin Reggae Festival.

Advance tickets for the 2019 event are now on sale. Buy your VIP Pass, Three-Day-Wristband or single day ticket before the gates open on April 19 to save!

The 2018 Austin Reggae Festival raised $129,543.14 to help feed hungry Central Texas families. Let’s do even better in April 2019!

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Reggae News You Can Use For April 9, 2019

Your daily dose of international reggae news for Tuesday, April 9!

Etana receives 3 nominations at Reggae and World Music Awards
Shaggy’s new single features Alexander Stewart
VP Records launches the Reggae Trail to capture NYC hotspots

Mark your calendar for April 19-21, which are the dates for the 2019 Austin Reggae Festival.

Advance tickets for the 2019 event are now on sale. Buy your VIP Pass, Three-Day-Wristband or single day ticket before the gates open on April 19 to save!

The 2018 Austin Reggae Festival raised $129,543.14 to help feed hungry Central Texas families. Let’s do even better in April 2019!

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ATX Sound System: April 8, 2019

We’ve written about the headliners and international artists playing the 2019 Austin Reggae Fest already. But what about the local bands that were recently announced? If you’re not familiar with the reggae scene in Austin (or, indeed, greater Texas), here’s a quick primer on some of the local talent that will be taking the stage this year. We’ve added some of their tunes to the Austin Reggae Fest playlist for you to check out, too. So, be sure to arrive early and enjoy the vibes.

Fans of Augustus Pablo will especially appreciate the melodica-driven vibes of Austin- and San Francisco-based Grimy Styles. Self-described as “an exploration in space rock from the Jamaican dub tradition”, they are what you might imagine if Pink Floyd had gone into the studio with King Tubby. They’ve been together for over a decade now and their laid-back, dubby instrumentals should be the perfect soundtrack to an afternoon out of doors by the lake.

Originally formed at Columbia College in Chicago, the members of Lion Heights made Austin home shortly after graduating in 2014. Since then, they’ve been gigging and recording regularly, releasing a handful of singles and an EP before dropping their debut full-length LP in 2017. Their classic sound is straight out of Kingston circa 1978, replete with conscious lyrics that reflect the roots reggae that inspired them as well as the current state of the world. They’re also no strangers to feel-good songs, however. And, having studied music at college, these guys can play. They’ve even been called upon to back such performers as Dawn Penn and Sister Nancy when they came through town.

This young, brass-powered seven-piece from San Antonio was named after the band that one of their grandfathers formed in the 1950s, which played at regional dances. This new-generation version of Starlighter keeps the dance alive with upbeat ska influenced by the third wave revival of ska, spear-headed by bands like Reel Big Fish and The Mighty Mighty BossTones. But their shows aren’t just for the kids–you’re likely to hear classic covers like “Don’t Let Me Down” (The Beatles) and “Ain’t No Sunshine“ (Bill Withers) peppered throughout their lively set.

The Mau Mau Chaplains should require no introduction. Austin’s premiere reggae cover band for well over a decade, they hold down a weekly residency at Flamingo Cantina on 6th Street, playing to a steady following of fans. Some of the band members have been playing together in various projects for decades (literally), so The Chaplains are one well-oiled machine as a live unit, and they’ll be delivering favorites from Bob Marley to The Melodians, as well a few originals.

They’ve been a band for barely two years, forming in 2017, but Houston’s fast-rising quintet Roots From The Clay is already making waves in Texas and beyond. Their debut LP was picked up by an international distributor, they were invited to showcase at SXSW this year and they’ve just opened for The Wailers. At the band’s core is a husband-wife duo: Drummer and co-founder “Songo” Wilson graduated from the Edna Manley School of Music in Jamaica before touring the world for several years as a gigging musician, while frontwoman Aria Morgan-Wilson was a singer in Jamaica before landing in Houston. With conscious lyrics and a classic sound that draws from the last four decades of reggae (roots, dancehall, lovers rock and more), RFTC are a formidable live band, not to be missed.

 

Click here to hear all the dub sounds we have been listening to the last few days.

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Reggae News You Can Use For April 6, 2019

Your daily dose of international reggae news for Saturday, April 6!

Koffee predicts her #1 hit album “Rapture” will open many doors
Machel Montano talks with Jamaica Gleaner about his music
More headline gigs for Buju Banton including Barbados Reggae Festival

Mark your calendar for April 19-21, which are the dates for the 2019 Austin Reggae Festival.

Advance tickets for the 2019 event are now on sale. Buy your VIP Pass, Three-Day-Wristband or single day ticket before the gates open on April 19 to save!

The 2018 Austin Reggae Festival raised $129,543.14 to help feed hungry Central Texas families. Let’s do even better in April 2019!

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ATX Sound System: April 4, 2019

Today we return with a round-up of new tracks for April. You can check these out (and more) on our Austin Reggae Fest Playlist on Spotify.

Marla Brown: “Hello”

If the last name is familiar, it’s because Marla is the daughter of reggae legend Dennis Brown and Yvonne Brown (aka Yvonne Special). Originally born in the UK, Marla mostly grew up in England, where she was heavily involved in the arts from early on (she’s toured Europe as a dancer, model, singer, and even appeared on the UK television show “Britain’s Got Talent”), but has recently been spending more time in Jamaica. Her recent singles (“Trigger”, “One Time”), both released on the family’s Golden Brown label, have been radio-friendly affairs, and new one “Hello” is no exception. An ideal blend of modern dancehall, afrobeats and pop. One to watch in 2019.

The Up Top Boss draws his breaks and slows things down for an unexpectedly laid-back, gospel-tinged jam that celebrates the blessing of life and the power of staying positive and grateful for simply being alive. Perhaps the sweetest and most life-affirming two and a half minutes you’ll hear this week.

Since the end-of-year announcement that Popcaan was officially signed to Drake’s OVO label starting in 2019, we’ve seen 10+ new tracks surface from Poppy already this year, albeit none on OVO yet. One gets the feeling they may be clearing out the proverbial ashtrays of all the stuff that’s been sitting in the can in preparation for some sort of career relaunch by Drake’s team. Whether or not that’s the case, there have been a couple of gems in this batch, particularly the tracks with producer Dunwell. We wrote briefly about rising star Mario Dunwell last month (he produced the new single from Unruly signing Quada, as well as producing the recent Supreme Riddim). Among the four tracks he’s released with Popcaan this year, latest singles “ReDress” and “Unstoppable” are both winners.

Determined to be dancehall’s next queen, Shenseea has rarely put a foot wrong since bursting onto the scene a couple of years ago. So, we’re relieved to see her back on form with this new single following the release last month of “I Can” (with Ding Dong), a disappointingly-overcooked attempt at air-punching sing-along summer anthem. Produced in-house by her manager Romeich Major, this is the Shenseea we know and love.

Jamaican singer Alaine Laughton usually leans a little MOR for our taste but her latest single caught our attention for a couple of reasons: Tapping into Ghana’s hot dancehall scene, she’s not only brought in Stonebwoy for guest vocals, but the tune itself comes courtesy of in-demand Ghanaian producer Willisbeatz (aka William Osafo), best known for being the hand behind many of Shatta Wale’s recent hits. (On a side note, it’s also kind of amusing, given the recurring feud between Stonebwoy and Wale, to see Stone working with the latter’s producer.) Meanwhile, Alaine has also turned up on a couple of fresh riddims this past month: The tasty Kingston Riddim (“Man Crush Everyday”) and St Andrew Riddim (“You Give Me Hope”), both via Chimney Records.

 

Click here to hear all the dub sounds we have been listening to the last few days.

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Reggae News You Can Use For April 2, 2019

Your daily dose of international reggae news for Tuesday, April 2!

AK Songstress isn’t afraid to confront her critics
40 years later, Babylon is finally available to US movie-goers
Rita Marley releasing best of compilation

Mark your calendar for April 19-21, which are the dates for the 2019 Austin Reggae Festival.

Advance tickets for the 2019 event are now on sale. Buy your VIP Pass, Three-Day-Wristband or single day ticket before the gates open on April 19 to save!

The 2018 Austin Reggae Festival raised $129,543.14 to help feed hungry Central Texas families. Let’s do even better in April 2019!

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Reggae News You Can Use For April 1, 2019

Your daily dose of international reggae news for Monday, April 1!

Damian Marley talks cannabis, politics and future plans
New reggae-tinged single released from Cage the Elephant and Beck
Sampalue releases debut album ‘Straight Outta Hannah Town’

Mark your calendar for April 19-21, which are the dates for the 2019 Austin Reggae Festival.

Advance tickets for the 2019 event are now on sale. Buy your VIP Pass, Three-Day-Wristband or single day ticket before the gates open on April 19 to save!

The 2018 Austin Reggae Festival raised $129,543.14 to help feed hungry Central Texas families. Let’s do even better in April 2019!

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